Glenn Inquiry detects mood for action
Everyone can play their part in shifting the culture behind New Zealand’s alarming family violence statistics, guest columnist and former Supreme Court judge Bill Wilson QC says. Wilson is chairman of the Glenn Inquiry, an independent effort to peel back
he newly published People’s Report is providing a rallying point for confronting our unacceptable rates of family violence.
Many have been shocked by the unvarnished accounts from people hurt by child abuse or domestic violence. But the rawness of these stories seems to have galvanised people.
Scores have been in touch needing help or offering it, or with ideas and encouragement.
Many are desperate to be heard.
The report aimed to give voice to real-life experiences and make them the touchstone for recommendations to come later, in a Blueprint for Change. But the message and direction are clear.
New Zealand needs a profound culture shift if it is going to reverse its abuse statistics and protect, save and restore lives.
People affected by abuse say it is still really hard to escape an abusive relationship.
They want a national strategy that adopts zero tolerance of violence, puts children first and addresses poverty and binge drinking.
Education, early intervention, long-lasting support and reliable funding would also be part of it.
The courts are criticised for making things worse, along with some responses from Child Youth and Family and Work and Income.
Some may question this finger pointing at government agencies when it is individual perpetrators who inflict the physical harm.
But the voices in the report also point to a poverty of spirit in New Zealand that accepts violence as normal. This needs to be confronted.
American Judge Learned Hand once said liberty lies in the hearts of men and women – ‘‘when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it’’.
The same applies to dignity and respect within our famil- ies. Indeed those who shared their stories want people to know what a healthy relationship looks like. People do not have to wait for the Blueprint to start stepping up.
Fundamental human rights and dignity are not suspended when we cross the threshold or close the curtains. Everybody can contribute to keeping these values alive.
The people in the report told how small kindnesses often provided a life-line or a turning point – all of us are capable of this.
I believe we have it in us to design a more reliable, respectful system that responds swiftly and cohesively when people need help.
It would ensure victims are not re-traumatised, and would bolster individual and community efforts.
As the inquiry continues with its work, I challenge everyone to ask themselves if their own relationships are mutually respectful: ‘‘ Am I safe? Is my behaviour safe? Are my children safe?’’
I challenge voters to tell election candidates that they expect unified leadership to bring about a culture shift.
To professionals, consider whether you are adequately trained in family violence.
To frontline workers, be extra mindful about how you show respect for those you serve.
To everyone who wants a caring violence-free society, make the impact on our children the acid test of what is acceptable behaviour.
For those who feel frightened or in danger, there are people and organisations you can turn to for help.
Former Supreme Court Judge Bill Wilson